By Virginia Glatzer, Educational Consultant, Jewish Learning Venture

As children, we learned important life lessons in the sandbox; this year’s participants in the Leadership Development Series applied them to our education communities. It was a blended learning opportunity with a retreat, two interactive webinars, and a wrap-up where participants worked with a partner from their community.

The series started with a retreat in a wonderful location in the woods of New Hope. We emphasized the importance of cultivating trusting relationships with parents, faculty, clergy, and lay leadership. To that end, we began by writing on the topic of a conversation that went astray and considered the reasons why. Since it could be that the person we were working with looked at the world and their interactions in a different way than we do, we then determined where we fall on the medicine wheel. This exercise never fails to give us a deeper appreciation of those we work with. It was enlightening to see the difference in how the Norths, Souths, Easts and Wests planned their dream vacation and see how that style translates into their professional work. It was clear that, when selecting people for a team, choosing those who think differently is paramount for success.

Our retreat continued with two activities that further explored leadership style. The Education Directors were challenged to organize themselves in the order of a story, simply by looking at one picture from the wordless story. It was informative to see how different leadership styles took control of the situation! This was followed by a silent protocol to address a problem of practice and consider ways, such as this protocol, to give everyone a voice.


Effectively communicating with evidence was the focus of our first webinar. The second webinar talked about how to use evidence when having hard conversations, since sharing evidence related to an issue, problem, or experience keeps the focus on data rather than on feelings. We explored the reasons why we avoid those difficult conversations and how to plan for them by thinking through the hoped-for outcome and determining what would be needed to get there. Then, we thoughtfully considered how best to effectively communicate that with the person with whom we needed to have that hard conversation.

Our final session, held at Temple Brith Achhim, brought Education Directors together with a key member of their community – clergy, education committee chairs, and congregants. Each partnership worked through their own authentic case study – considering the personalities, evidence, and their intended outcome. Then, each team scripted the introduction to the conversation and role played it to see if the language was as effective as they’d hoped. This final session took all they had explored over four months and applied it to a real situation.